Capulet vs. Montague. Sammy Sosa vs. Mark McGwire. Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift. Much like these storied feuds of literature and history, the enduring battle between stenography and electronic reporting rages on into the digital age as both sides refuse to relinquish their claims of superiority. Stenographers will argue that their extensive training in the art of shorthand reporting makes them uniquely qualified to capture testimony completely and accurately, but as a digital reporter, I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I’m completely baffled by the suggestion that it is even possible for a stenographer’s transcript to be superior to one produced straight from the video record. How can a stenographer’s certification of accuracy, which is simply just his or her controvertible assertion of quality, compare to an indisputable video record of testimony? It simply cannot.
Transcript corroboration is what sets digital reporting apart from traditional alternatives. And while a video record has the added benefit of capturing some non-verbal testimony that can enhance the reading of a transcript, its greatest feature remains its ability to reinforce the veracity of the written word. Eliminated is the possibility that, come trial, a witness can claim the reporter got it wrong. Recently, my business partner, Erin, was recording an arbitration proceeding where the witness claimed to never have said what was reflected in the transcript. Per the judge’s request, Erin was able to pull up the video and play the contested portion of the witness’s testimony, affirming the verity of our product and the deceptiveness of the witness. Can a stenographer’s certified transcript alone do that? I think not.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I actually have great respect for stenographers. As an experienced transcriptionist, I very much appreciate the talent involved in balancing speed and accuracy in document production. However, as technology progresses, I find that the development of such skill is becoming more and more unnecessary. Why type now and risk error, when you can shoot now and type later? No matter how well trained the stenographer, he or she simply cannot capture every word with 100 percent accuracy. But with a video record that I can reference over and over until I’m certain I’ve transcribed the testimony completely and accurately, I can assure that I’m providing my client with a superior product.
So when all is said and done, the choice between stenography and videography comes down to whether you’re willing to take a risk. If your case hinges on the veracity of a deposition record, are you willing to unequivocally trust that your stenographer got it right or would you rather have a video record to corroborate that transcript? Can you risk trusting a witness won’t suddenly change his or her testimony come trial and blame the steno for getting it wrong or would you rather have a video record available to verify the accuracy of your transcript? If it was me, I’d go digital. What about you?